A new study from the Wesley Theological Seminary has found that the United Methodist Church (UMC) has had a quarter of its churches leave the denomination over views on same-sex relationships.
According to research from the Lewis Centre, 7,631 churches cut ties with the UMC between 2019 and 2023.
Following its 2019 general conference, the UMC strengthened bans on same-sex marriage and clergy members with gay partners by reaffirming its definition of marriage as the “union of one man and one woman” and barring the ordination of "self-avowed practicing homosexuals."
The affirmation that “all people are sacred and of equal value to God” was also made, with the Church stating that people could become active Church members irrespective of “sexual orientation or practice.”
The Church maintains that it “does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.”
The move has created discord across the denomination, with many raising concerns over LGBTQI inclusivity. 25 per cent of churches have disaffiliated from UMC since 2019, according to the study.
Data shows 71 per cent of disaffiliating churches came from the Southeast and South-Central regions of the US, while at least 20 per cent of disaffiliating churches are located in highly populated counties.
The UMC's next general conference is due to convene in April 2023, and is expected to address legislative proposals to change church policies on human sexuality and to restructure the denomination based on differences on this issue.